Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘tour’ Category

Bannerman Castle

In historical, nyc, photography, tour on July 23, 2010 at 10:01 am

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When you step off the MTA train in Beacon, NY, an hour north of Manhattan, you enter another world. A small brick path with well-labeled signs leads you from the train station to the edge of a lake of molten glass, lapping a green-tinted wooden dock peacefully and bordered by an immense sky. After a short wait on the dock with your fellow out-of-town travelers, mostly middle-aged and sweating in their T-shirts, a low, flat-topped boat arrives and everyone piles in. The vessel glids you through the waves, with the sun glinting off the dingy aquamarine depths.

Bannerman’s Island divides the waters of the Hudson River, with sloping, viridian mountains on the surrounding shores. Bannerman Castle , built in the late nineteenth century, is tucked away on the northern shore of the island, mixing darkly with the distant foliage. The castle is all rust-colored brick and greige cement, topped with tall turrets and the phrase BANNERMAN ISLAND ARSENAL embossed on the northern side of the structure. Originally seven stories high, it is now an empty shell and a safety hazard; visitors must keep their distance, and if the wind picks up, must back away even further.

Upon docking, our merry band was met by volunteers dispensing cheery-colored hard hats. Our mud-splattered tour guide was a fast-talking font of information, and jumped into his rambling, repetitive spiel with little preface on the castle’s history or purpose. The hour-long tour was an explosive mashup of US  and world history (some of which was factually questionable), Mr. Bannerman’s life, and fun snippets of information. Our guide randomly displayed period photographs taped to Styrofoam boards. Once, we were treated to a basic zoological history of the cormorant.

I’ll spare you the details of the castle’s past (military surplus warehouse, trading point) and its creator (jack-of-all-trades businessman, novelty purveyor). The castle is in severe disrepair, thanks to explosions and fires over the past century, and, most recently, two bouts of nasty winter weather that took down two thirds of the castle walls. When you become lost in your guide’s exposition of the island (and you will), focus instead on the natural beauty surrounding you. The space is remarkably quiet, but for the tromping of feet on dirt paths and the occasional speedboat. Subsidiary buildings, built in the same style as the castle, dot the rest of the island, along with small gardens and a covered flowering grotto. Try to stay out of the sun; the heat can be oppressive if the tour is in the middle of the day.

The Bannerman Castle Trust hopes one day to restore the island’s structures to their original grandeur. After the poorly planned tour, I was left unconvinced that such a restoration would be worth it without several big changes. The Trust needs a clear mission statement, a lot of organization and a few wealthy backers to supply the millions needed to stabilize the castle. The Trust is planning several innovative events for later this summer, including a Victorian tea party in August, and a dinner for forty guests in September, prepared by the former chef at the Governor’s Mansion. I wish them well; they have much work to do before Bannerman Castle can really shine.


Date Night: Down The Rabbit Hole

In breakfast, movie, museum, music, nyc, romance, song, tour, treasure trove, upcoming on March 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

This plan for your weekend is courtesy of BLoGT.

In honor of the long-awaited release of Tim Burton’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, in theaters March 5, BLoGT presents a special themed Date Night, designed to help you OD on Lewis Carroll’s enduring drug trip. Do a little pre-planning and -purchasing, wear your walking shoes, and remember to update your iPod before you go!

Head uptown early to snag a seat for breakfast at…

Alice’s Tea Cup, 102 West 73rd Street, at Columbus Avenue

Praised by Yelp and Glitter Sleuth alike, this themed restaurant has three locations on the Upper East and West Sides. The whimsical decor, dotted with quotes from the original novel, and the menu, overflowing with pots of tea, trays of scones and tiers of delicate sandwiches, are all designed around Carroll’s whimsical world. A favorite for little girls’ birthdays and yoga-fit mommies’ brunches alike, this is no place for hetero men.

Arrive at the restaurant early, or be prepared for a wait of an hour or more; once ten o’clock rolls around, tables are at a premium.

After you’ve munched yourself into an Alice-themed stupor, head northeast through Central Park to find…

The Unbirthday Party sculpture, at 74th Street and Central Park East, north of Conservatory Water

Meet your favorite oversized characters! You’ll have to jostle for place with the dozens of children who constantly clamor all over this beloved sculpture, commissioned by George Delacorte in 1959 in honor of his wife, Margarita. It’s worth the wait, though, so stick around and takes pictures of your date sitting on a giant bronze mushroom. Better yet, steal a quiet spot on the back of a mushroom and read from the original text to one another. While you’re back there, play Spot-The-Tiny-Bronze-Insect; the sculpture’s details are lovely.

For some time away from the crowds, walk southeast through the Park’s eastern side while rocking out to…

  • White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
  • Alice (Underground), Avril Lavigne
  • Eat Me, Drink Me, Marilyn Manson
  • Alice, Stevie Nicks
  • Sunshine, Aerosmith
  • Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Bob Dylan
  • Alice In Wonderland, Wynter Gordon
  • Heads Will Roll, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Alice, Alice,Victim Effect
  • Down the Rabbit Hole, Adam Lambert

Many thanks to Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland Site and Spinner for much of this playlist. Check their sites out for more song ideas, and for Wonderland-inspired music videos!

Continue south long enough, and you can spend your afternoon perusing…

Tim Burton at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues

Don’t be one of the only New Yorkers who hasn’t yet seen this exhibit! Funded by Johnny Depp and Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham-Carter, the must-see retrospective of director Tim Burton’s work traces back to his earliest beginnings, including scribblings and drawings on cocktail napkins. Immerse yourself in his weird world.

Remember to purchase timed tickets online before you go; again, in the afternoons, the museum and especially the exhibit become packed.

Finally satiated? Wend your way home by way of…

“Alice: The Way Out” in the 50th Street 1 train subway station

The Central Park Unbirthday Party isn’t Alice’s only artistic appearance in the Big Apple. Keep your eyes peeled on the subway platform for a series of awesome and oft-overlooked mosaics featuring Alice and her friends in Wonderland, installed by Liliana Porter in 1994. There’s loads of cool art in the subway system; see what else you can spy on your ride home.

And cap off your day with the piece de resistance…

A screening of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland at a theater near you! Wear a campy outfit and join the screaming fangirls, or just stand back and take it all in.

As with everything else on this date, buy your tickets online ASAP and arrive at the theater EARLY. Enjoy!

From NPR News… Goes Viral!

In dc, radio, tour on July 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

My article “From NPR News…” was picked up by The Huffington Post!

Only… I can’t find it any more. 😦

Google Search has two results, from June 11 and June 16, showing a link to my article on Huffington Post’s NPR page. However, since HuffPost renews its site so often, I can’t find the original mention of my site. I’ve scoured HuffPost’s Archives page with no luck.

If anyone has any bright ideas on how to retrieve the original link, I’d be immensely grateful! (I’d love the bragging rights.)

From NPR News…

In dc, radio, tour on June 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Oh, public radio devotees: you wonderful animal-loving, ukulele-playing, cat-eye-glasses-wearing, bike-riding, garage-podcast-creating NPR listeners. Whether you’re in your early twenties or your mid-sixties, whether you hail from Portland or Seattle or Syracuse, I have great news: the NPR Studios in Washington, DC, give free public tours every Thursday at 11 am.
Don’t be fooled. This tour is not a meet-and-greet with the stars of NPR (although we did run into Jean Cochran in the hallway.) The journey begins on the sixth floor of the NPR building in DC’s Penn Quarter, and works its way down, stopping in recording studios, sound libraries and oceans of artsy cubicles along the way. Be prepared for a lot of techno-wonk talk in the beginning, giving way to more engaging topics later on: a detailed breakdown of Morning Edition’s harried two-hour schedule, deliberations on the future of radio funding, and descriptions of the three components of a radio broadcast (tracks; acs, or actuals; and ambiance.)

Particularly amusing, especially for all you old-timers, will be the conservation of analog reel-to-reel tapes, which NPR is in the process of converting to digital format. If the tapes are played, their silver coating tends to shred, rendering the reel unusable. The whiz kids at NPR have discovered, though, that if they bake the tapes in an oven at 130° for eight hours, the reel will be temporarily preserved for the next forty-five days, during which time the staff can make a digital copy. We even got to see the oven.

The centerpiece of the tour is a visit to Studio 4A, oft-used by Scott Simon on Weekend Edition. Studio 4A is the one room in the building where photography is allowed. The space is very silent and very soundproof. The surface on which you stand is lifted off the room’s actual floor; the ceiling is taken out; the walls are alternately hard and soft; and no two walls are parallel, to avoid reverb. The sound quality of sample songs you hear is supreme.

The ceiling of Studio 4A.

Our tour was lucky enough to stumble upon a recording session for the next day’s broadcasts. Steve Inskeep was interviewing a reporter from the New York Times on Bernanke and Geithner, gesturing wildly with his hands while his voice remained completely calm. (Steve is young! And tall!) A sound mixer, a producer and an editor looked on in an adjoining glass-walled room. At the close of the interview, the two men waited a beat, and then chatted briefly. The short, informal dialogue, still broadcast for us to hear, brought home the purpose of the whole tour: a personal, behind-the-scenes look at a beloved medium.